Fright Flick (2011) – By Cary Conley

I was really excited to see this movie because director Israel Luna’s Ticked Off Trannies with Knives was so much fun. Unfortunately, this follow up to Trannies is a big step backwards for Luna.

The basic story is simple: a group of filmmakers making a slasher flick are being picked off one-by-one by a vicious killer. This isn’t the first time that this has happened on the set of this director’s films. It seems that the year before, the young starlet of the previous film was tragically murdered. Now the killings have begun again. Is it one of the disgruntled film crew or actors, or is it a crazed fan obsessed with this slasher franchise? There are plenty of red herrings in the film. For instance, it could be the jealous supporting actress because she is forced to watch her boyfriend–and co-star of the film–kiss and flirt with the female lead, who only got the part because of her ample assets. Or maybe it’s the gay makeup man who has just broken up with his boyfriend. Or it could be the assistant director who is obsessed with another crew member and seems to know all the secrets around the set. Perhaps it’s even the weird, greasy director himself who is so obviously a pervert or maybe even the embittered producer whose script was stolen by the director. Now he’s relegated to producer of his own script, forced to watch while the hack director mutilates his masterpiece.

While all this sounds very complicated and fun, the reality is that most viewers will be able to guess the killer’s identity just a few minutes into the film, so any tension Luna intended to create as the film progresses is ruined by the introduction of what I thought was an obvious killer. That’s not the only problem with the film. While Trannies was slick, well-written, and well-acted, this film is none of that. Most of the acting is downright bad; while much of the acting is supposed to be outrageously bad as an in-joke to indie filmmakers, even the "real" acting is amateurish at best. None of the characters are likable in the least and spend most of the film whining, complaining, or conniving against the others, which doesn’t generate much sympathy in the viewer.

The film was designed to be a sly commentary on independent filmmaking, with plenty of jokes about that subject evident. But none of the jokes are really very funny. The film is also supposed to be a gore flick, but many of the effects are poorly done. While there are a couple of gory set pieces, the majority of the effects are not as violent as the poster artwork or the advertising blurbs leads the viewer to believe.

Fright Flick was also intended as an homage to low-budget horror films, but what we have are entire scenes ripped off from more famous slasher films. These scenes are easy for even a passing horror fan to pick out and had me rolling my eyes in embarrassment instead of grinning. One scene in particular that has a crew member finally end the killer’s life was so obvious as to almost be plagiarism. I’d describe the scene for you and identify the original film, but I don’t want to spoil the fun for any potential brave viewers. The fight scenes between the killer and various victims are contrived and fake; you can almost see the gears turning in the actors’ heads…"right hook, then kick, now grab the axe."

There are several silly scenes that occur in nearly every slasher film I’ve ever seen, which could have been fun if played with a wink, but instead were played seriously and came across very badly. Near the end, the "hero" gets hurt and valiantly demands that his lovely companion leave him and escape while she can. Of course she refuses. He looks at her with a deep, very serious gaze:

"Do you trust me?"

"Yes."

"No, do you really trust me?"

"Yes!"

"Then go on…I’ll be fine."

And later, at the end of the film, we have the ubiquitous ambulance scene that carries the survivors away, complete with sappy sweet comments.

Overall this picture was a disappointment for me. It was too heavy-handed in its use of homage and humor and too subtle with the violence. It will be released on DVD on Breaking Glass Pictures’ Vicious Circle label in January (www.breakingglasspictures.com), but my recommendation is to pick up Luna’s fun and stylish Ticked Off Trannies instead.